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Wilson v. International Flavors & Fragrances

May 3, 2010

JAMES WILSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNATIONAL FLAVORS & FRAGRANCES, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arpert, U.S.M.J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff James Wilson's ("Plaintiff" or "Mr. Wilson") Motion to Compel Defendant International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. (IFF) to provide more specific discovery responses [dkt. entry no. 9]. IFF filed opposition and Plaintiff filed a reply. The Court has fully reviewed the parties' written submissions and considered the Motion pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that IFF wrongfully terminated his employment based on his age. Plaintiff intends to prove age discrimination through circumstantial evidence, specifically by showing that "IFF engaged in a pattern and practice of terminating its long time older workers and replacing them with younger workers within a reasonably close proximity to the time Mr. Wilson was fired on March 20, 2009." (Pl.'s Br. at 1.) In response, IFF contends Plaintiff was terminated for poor performance and points out that the company also terminated a younger employee based on the same incident that resulted in Plaintiff's termination.

The instant Motion arises out of the parties' dispute regarding the scope of permissible discovery and, specifically, whether Plaintiff is entitled to:

(1) discover documents and information related to each and every instance since January 1, 2000 where IFF received a written communication or complaint alleging age discrimination (Plaintiff's Document Demand Nos. 16-18 and Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 5);

(2) discover the age composition of IFF's work force for a reasonable period of time both before and after Plaintiff's termination on March 20, 2009, i.e. for years 2005-2010 (Plaintiff's Document Demand Nos. 26, 30-58, & 93 and Interrogatory Nos. 3-4 & 12-25);

(3) discover the names, dates of birth/ages, dates of hire, dates of termination, job titles, and reasons for termination of persons who were terminated (with or without cause) covering a reasonable period of time both before and after Plaintiff's termination on March 20, 2009, i.e. for years 2005-2010 (Plaintiff's Document Demand Nos. 26, 30-58, & 93 and Interrogatory Nos. 3-4 & 12-25); and

(4) discover the names, dates of birth/ages, dates of hire, dates of termination, job titles, reasons for termination (if applicable), of persons who were hired covering a reasonable period of time both before and after Plaintiff's termination on March 20, 2009, i.e. for years 2005-2010 (Plaintiff's Document Demand Nos. 26 & 59-74 and Interrogatory Nos. 3-4 & 12-25).

The legal basis for Plaintiff's argument is that pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), he is entitled to any non-privileged information that is relevant to any party's claim or defense. Plaintiff argues that "[i]n one of this State's leading cases on discovery in a discrimination case, the New Jersey Supreme Court made clear that the New Jersey discovery rules are to be construed liberally in favor of broad pretrial discovery." Id. at 11 (citing Payton v. New Jersey Turnpike Authority, 148 N.J. 524, 535 (1997)).

Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to documents and information related to prior written communications or complaints alleging age discrimination since January 1, 2000 because "one aspect of [P]laintiff's claim is to show [D]efendant's ageist state of mind . . . [which] can be circumstantially proven through evidence of past conduct or prior incidents, i.e. other discriminatory acts of [D]efendant IFF which were based on age." Id. at 12. Plaintiff emphasizes that "[t]he Third Circuit in Glass v. Philadelphia Electric Co., 34 F. 3d 188 (3d Cir. 1994) reversed the district court's decision that prevented the plaintiff from introducing evidence of prior discriminatory acts against the defendant that occurred outside the statutory limitations period." Id. at 13 (citing 34 F. 3d at 195).

Next, Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to discovery regarding age composition because such "statistical evidence requested by [P]laintiff is relevant to his claim of age discrimination as it may tend to prove or disprove [P]laintiff's claim th[at] IFF engaged in a pattern and practice of age discrimination." Id. at 14. Plaintiff further argues that "[i]n McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), the Supreme Court expressly noted the relevance of statistical data to prove that the employer's stated reason for the termination of plaintiff's employment was in fact a pretext." Id. at 15.

Plaintiff also argues that he is entitled to information regarding persons terminated and hired at IFF's Hazlet, New Jersey facility during the period 2005-2010 to prove that "IFF engaged in a pattern and practice of age discrimination when it began to terminate its older employees and hire much younger employees." Id. at 17. Plaintiff asserts that "[t]he Supreme Court explicitly states that there is no per se rule excluding evidence and that 'whether evidence of discrimination by other supervisors is relevant in an individual ADEA case is in fact based and depends on many factors, including how closely related the evidence is to the plaintiff's circumstances and theory of the case.'" Id. at 19 (quoting Sprint/Unlimited Management Co. v. Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 388 (2008)). Plaintiff contends that the requested information regarding persons terminated and hired by the company is relevant because "the statistical evidence sought may tend to show a pattern and practice of terminating older workers." Id. at 20-21. Plaintiff further contends that the Garvey court held that such statistical evidence is admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 406. Id. at 21 (citing Garvey v. Dickinson College, 763 F. Supp. 799, 802 (M.D. Pa. 1991)) ("in a gender-based discrimination case, evidence about the employer's hiring and review practices is relevant, as is statistical evidence about the ratio of men to women fired, retained or promoted by the employer, to show that the employer follows a practice of discriminating against women").

Lastly, Plaintiff maintains that he is entitled to attorneys' fees based on Defendant's unjustified refusal to produce any of the requested documents despite having been provided with legal authority supporting Plaintiff's discovery requests. Id. at 22. Plaintiff further asserts that regardless of his willingness to limit the scope of his request to IFF's Hazlet, New Jersey facility and enter into a ...


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